We as hunters love our gear. On second thought outdoorsmen and women in general are pretty obsessed with gear. The more passionate you are about the activity generally the more gear you accumulate. As with most things some gear is helpful and some can be left out.
With the season fast approaching I wanted to make a deer hunting gear check list that covers what gear is truly needed to get outside to enjoy the outdoors and what gear can be viewed as a want rather than a need.
So why do we even have gear? Let’s face it. Gear makes our lives easier or more comfortable. Inventions are made to increase our productivity, keep us safer, or make it easier on us in some form or fashion. Why was the wheel invented, the engine, TV, mattress, heavy machinery, the list goes on and on.
The Deer Hunting Gear Check List Breakdown
For this article I will break it down into 3 sections. Many items in this article I use currently or have used in the past.
- The Minimalist
- The Average Joe
- The Gear Junkie
Also, for this article I am writing it with the thought process in mind of each sections includes the gear of the previous. What I mean by this is gear that is covered in the minimalist section will be a part of the other 2 sections without listing the gear out 3 times.
This could be someone just starting out hunting and doesn’t have a lot of gear. Also, a lot of people and myself to an extent revert to a minimalist approach after hunting for years. You start to realize what gear you need and what you can do without. Getting back to the basics and finding the joy of the hunt from when you first started out. Less stuff you have to carry into the woods makes you more mobile as well.
For this section I wanted to keep it basic and cover the true needs for getting out in the woods. We are talking bare minimum. At this point as far as clothing anything you have that will keep you warm will work. Take note though to stay away from blue and purple colored clothes. Deer can see this color spectrum well.
I’d shoot for earth tone colors: green, brown, beige, and black. What is important is anything that breaks up the human figure. People in the old days wore jeans and a buffalo plaid jacket and did just fine.
Bow or Gun: First and foremost you need a weapon. Compound bow, long bow or recurve, crossbow, or gun are all options in just about every state. I shoot a compound and also gun hunt. Here in the Midwest where I hunt, most gun seasons are short so if you want to hunt more than 2 weeks then you need pick up a bow.
I’ve been bow hunting for 15 years or so now and really enjoy the challenge. Currently I shoot a Quest Forge and am very happy with it. Made by G5 Outdoors who also makes Prime bows and G5 broadheads. I needed a bow that performs every time, in any environment, and doesn’t cost more than my mortgage payment. I found it with the Quest Forge. If your in the market for a bow I recommend the Forge.
Regarding a gun you can’t beat a Remington 870. I have had the same 870 for the past 13 years. It’s actually a youth model but now that I am an adult I still take it to the stand because of its short length with the slug barrel attached. I’m 5’9″ so I can get away with a smaller gun. Having a shorter gun in the stand makes it easier to move around and get into position for a shot. I have yet to take a shot over 60 yards as my gun is open sights so its the perfect fit for me.
If the state and area you are hunting in allows a rifle check out Savage Arms. They make great rifles that will serve you well in the deer woods.
Arrows: If you go the bow route a good set of arrows is just as important as a quality bow. Arrows are based off what is called the spine of the arrow. This is how stiff the arrow is and is determined by how much in inches an arrow flexes with weight hanging from it. The scale is generally from 100 to 1000. You will see this as a 300, 350, 400, etc spine.
As draw length and draw weight increase so should the stiffness or spine of the arrow. Example would be someone with a 25″ draw and shooting 45lbs will have a higher spine # compared to a 32″ draw and 85lbs draw.
For the past couple seasons I have been shooting Black Eagle Outlaws and am impressed with there performance for the price. I have been pleased with mine. Black Eagle offers a whole line of great arrows.
Broadhead: Just as there is a debate on if Chevy or Ford makes a better truck you can read for years on end about which broadhead is best. Fixed blade or mechanical, brand, how many blades, and the list goes on and on.
Over the years I have used fixed blade and mechanical and have settled on fixed blades. Simple is best in my opinion and in my mind G5 Montecs are one of the best on the market. Single piece design that can be used again and again. The Montec is the perfect broadhead for me. Check out the video below from G5 about the Montec.
Seat: Especially if you are using a bow, shooting from a sitting position on the ground is very tough. I recommend having a compact folding chair that can lift you up off the ground and make you a bit more comfortable. Last year I found a couple spots on public I can hunt from the ground and bought a small tri-legged chair. It’s just high enough I can draw my bow comfortably but not to high that I stick out like a sore thumb. Very light and compact, it fits easily in my backpack.
Fanny Pack: Yes, that’s right fanny packs are cool now. Seriously though having a small fanny pack to carry water, snacks, license, and a knife is a lot easier than trying to stuff your pant pockets full. There are a couple options out on the market but you could always find a black or green one at Goodwill.
Knife: To round out this section a good knife can make quick work when field dressing a deer. I use a CRKT (Columbia River Knife and Tool) fixed blade knife. Stays sharp, light and fits well in my hand. As a back up I have a Cold Steel Pendelton Lite Hunter. Definitely a cheaper knife but comes in handy when you need it. It keeps an ok edge but for the price it is a good deal.
The Average Joe
Moving onto the next section is where I think a lot of hunters fall into. The point at which you have enough gear that you are comfortable out in the woods but the wife or husband isn’t mad at you for taking up half of the garage with hunting gear.
Honestly though as you get further and further into hunting you want to invest in gear that will last and serves a purpose. Here are a couple more gear items you way want to add to the arsenal.
Stand and Safety Harness: Before we were married my wife bought me a steel climbing stand for Christmas many years back. At the time I was thrilled but after a couple season of carrying what felt like an elephant on my back I decided to look at other options. After doing some searching I found Lone Wolf Stands and purchased one of their climbers.
Wow, was that an eye-opening experience the first time I carried that stand into the woods. At just under 15lbs it was night and day compared to the steel climber that came in around 45lbs. Lone Wolf Stands are built to last and I have no doubt will last you an entire hunting life. Well worth the money in my opinion.
No matter what stand you decide to go with always wear a safety harness. Don’t risk your life or severe injury to climb a tree a couple seconds faster. With wearing a safety harness always make sure you are connected to the tree at all times. Use a lineman’s belt or safety rope when climbing a tree. I have had 2 family members fall from a tree while hunting. One was not wearing a harness at all and the other was but was not connected to the tree while climbing down. Thankfully each made a full recovery after breaking a hip and the other his back.
This past season I bought a tree saddle from Tethrd. I have enjoyed using this far and took 2 deer out of it last year. It’s a great option if you’re looking for a lightweight, mobile hunting system. I will still hunt out of a stand as the private land I hunt has a couple pre-set stands but it is definitely my main system when I hunt public land or want to be mobile.
I wrote an article comparing a tree saddle tvs a Lone Wolf climber. If you interested you can view that article here.
Climbing Sticks: Once you buy a stand you will need a way to climb the tree unless you buy a climber. There are many great climbing sticks on the market with pros and cons to each. I have a set of Muddy Pro sticks and I like them for 3 reasons.
- Rope Cam System: This system is the best option on the market for ease of use and very silent.
- Double Steps: Each section has a step on each side. I like this because I can stand with both feet on one step and feel secure. I often use the top step of the stick as my platform.
- Length of Stick: The 4 sticks fit nicely strapped to a pack and are easy to handle with one hand while setting up. They area good length that doesn’t get caught on branches above my head or jab me in the backside.
Backpack: As you add more gear you need a larger back to carry it. I bought an Alps Outdoorz Trail Blazer 3 years back and it is still holding strong. At 2,500 cubic inches it has more than enough room for my gear and clothes. Pair that with the strap downs for a bow or gun, attached rain fly, and ample side pockets make this pack a great option for any deer hunter.
Quality Boots: No one likes cold feet. Worse than that are wet feet. Buying a pair that checks both boxes is what I did when I decided to go with Muck Boots Wetland boot. Whether it’s a swamp, crop field, or timber I have these boots on when the temperature starts to drop.
As for early season my uninsulated Danner Vitals are what you can find me in. These boots are waterproof as well. I put them to the test in the Fall of 18 on a week-long elk hunt in Idaho. These boots performed great and I have used them on a couple turkey hunts as well this past spring. A light and flexible boot that is comfortable on long walks when I hunt public land. The Vitals are also offered in an insulated version if you want a pair to last you throughout the season.
Merino Base Layers: Switching to merino wool base layers has been the number one factor in me being able to stay out in the stand longer. I am a merino fan and will be to the day I die! A natural fiber that keeps you warm, cool, and doesn’t stink. It is well worth the investment and now looking back would give the advice of buying merino base layers before purchasing any other type of clothing.
I have socks, underwear, leggings, fingerless gloves and a long sleeve shirt made from merino and plan to get a beanie and short sleeve in the near future.
Merino is warmer than a synthetic piece of the same weight. You just can’t beat it.
Camo: Just like broadheads, you can easily find someone out there who is a die hard Sitka, First Lite, Cabelas, Kuiu, Kryptek, etc fan. Yes, these are all great brands that will server you well. My word of advice is go to a store and try some brands on. See what you like and don’t like. Currently I wear Plythal and have been happy with their gear the past couple seasons. If a specific brand is not available in store than order a single piece of clothing online and try it out.
I would rather go through the hassle of returning clothes a couple times finding exactly what I want then spending a bunch of money at once and not be satisfied because you think you have to wear X brand.
Also, mix and match brands. Just because you match doesn’t make you a better hunter.
Once you find what you like I would focus on articles of clothing that cover the following.
- Wind Breaker
- Water Resistant or Water Proof
Focus on these 4 aspects and you will be able to stay out longer which will increase your ability to be successful.
The Gear Junkie
Alright at this point your in deep. Garage is full and you’re looking for a spare closet in the house. Cabelas is a curse word in the house to the wife or husband.
Ozonics: If you are a scent control freak an Ozonics unit is here to save the day. The unit turns oxygen (O2) into an ozone molecule (O3) and emits it out of the unit with a fan. Because ozone has a 3rd molecule it is unstable and looking for molecules to attach to. The ozone molecule bonds with the scent molecule (bacteria) and given enough time actual destroys the scent molecule. It is a lot of technology in a little package and if you’re worried about hunting the wind it can definitely give you an edge. For further explanation check out how it works from Ozonics.
Trail Cameras: Trail cameras are like potato chips…you can’t just have one. Nothing beats getting a trail camera photo from a friend or family member with a nice buck front and center. You can also capture some amazing photos of different wildlife as well. Trail cameras are a great tool but don’t let it consume you. Far to many people get impatient and mess up a spot before they ever hunt it because they can’t help but see what the camera reveals.
I’ll be honest. I’ve had cameras and they are a lot of fun. It’s like Christmas morning when you sit there waiting for the photos to upload. For the past couple of years I’ve strayed away from them mainly because where I hunt on private and public I kept having people mess with my cameras. Just got to the point where I was wasting money every year. Finally decided to use that money for other hunting gear. If anyone has any ideas on how to keep them from the grasp of human hands please leave me a comment below.
I have family and friends that use Stealth Cam trail cameras and have had good results. Reliable and takes quality photos day or night.
Video Camera/Go Pro: A lot of people now are recording their hunts. Whether you post them on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, or just share with friends and family having the right set up can make all the difference. Go Pros are great for capturing different angles that can add a different perspective but to have a high quality video a DSLR camera is a great route. Pair that was a solid camera arm and you are good to go.
Camera Arm: Having a steady shot really improves the quality of the video. I think we have all seen the shaky video that after a while you get a headache trying to focus. 4th Arrow Cameras Arms are a great option to look at. It’s a Michigan based company that produces a high quality product that is very functional.
Range Finder: Having the confidence of knowing exactly how far the deer is from you in the moment of truth will increase the effectiveness. Being able to trust you optics and know it will perform in any situation is critical. Leupold is an American owned and operated company that makes a great range finder.
I am looking at their scopes for a .270 I want to buy for my antelope hunt in the Fall of 2020 as well.
Binos: Binos are catching on in the deer woods. Growing up I didn’t think I needed a pair. It wasn’t until the last couple years when I started carrying mine that I became sold on them. Being able to pick up slight movement in the brush can mean the difference between a deer sneaking up on you and having enough time to get ready for a shot. Also, with the antler restrictions many states are going to binos are an invaluable tool to help you determine if a buck is legal or not.
Vortex Diamondback 10×42 are what I carry and overall have been happy with them. Very clear glass for the price and picks up a lot of light at dawn and dusk. With there lifetime VIP warranty it doesn’t matter what happens to them, Vortex will repair or replace them for free.
Handsaw: In my opinion this is an overlooked item than can make life a lot easier for you in the stand. We have all been there. You sneak up into the stand, start to pick out the shooting windows, and there is a small branch right in the way. Being able to quickly and quietly give yourself a little more of a window can make all the difference.
Also in a pinch it can make a great bone saw when you are field dressing a deer. I have a Wicked Tree Gear handsaw and it zips through branches with ease. Great option to keep in the side pocket of the pack.
Calls: Whether it’s the iconic Bleat in Heat can call or you have a grunt tube, interacting and fooling animals is a fun part of the hunt. It is a high stakes game though. Call too much or hit a note wrong and that buck is heading out of the area fast. When it works it is heart pumping excitement that will get anyone excited.
Stay Sharp On Woodsmanship
No matter if you are the minimalist or the gear junkie being able to read sign and adapt to the current situation is still very important. Let’s make an effort to not let these skills passed down from generation to generation end with us.
Analyze the situation. What do you see? What are the clues telling you? What do you know from previous years about this area? Where do deer transition from bedding to food and visa versa? Take the information, formulate a plan and execute it.
The woods are always talking…it is up to you to know the language.
Wrapping It Up
Where do you fall in the 3 groups above? Do you land squarely in a certain section?
Let me know what your favorite piece of gear for the whitetail woods is.
Do you have a piece of gear you would like to know more about? Leave a comment below and I will do my best to provide you with the best information.
Have a good one.